“Detour, after detour, after detour.” As season 5 of The Walking Dead has progressed, this quote from Abraham feels like a very apt description as another plotline seemingly went from major driving force to just another detour. So far, every episode has more or less been a strong showing – even last week’s ‘Slabtown’ had some merit – yet it has also been a largely disparate affair, jumping from one arc to another.
And so it was that this week we found out the real truth of Eugene’s mission – he made it up. There is no cure. As far as developments go, this was massive, yet it meant that once again a key arc has been significantly cut short. First, the Terminus gang were taken care of and now, barely any further down the road, the Washington ‘splinter cell’ now find their mission to be a fallacy. Both of these developments are great, not least for their characterisation, yet you can’t help but wish that they’d been stretched out slightly longer. The reveal that there is no cure in Washington would’ve made a fantastic mid-season cliffhanger at the end of episode eight, and that would’ve given us more time to see the motivations of the Terminus gang and their cannibalistic ways before they met their demise.
Alas, this was not to be, so here we saw different sides to all the characters who had joined Abraham and hit the road at the end of ‘Four Walls and a Roof’, as they pushed on and then dealt with Eugene’s blow. Abraham himself was at the centre of this, as we saw a much-needed glimpse into his past. His actions this season have bordered on illogical – his decision not to wait for the entire group to join them on the journey, but instead to take off with far less strength in numbers, for example. These were the actions of a man clinging onto his self-appointed purpose, his escape from his departed family. The flashbacks initially felt out of place, but by the end their value was clear, showing Eugene’s arrival just as Abraham had lost his kin. Perhaps then, Abraham suspected that there was no cure, though his reaction to the reveal suggested otherwise.
Meanwhile, the reasoning behind Eugene’s lie reiterated the message at the heart of the show – survival, be it personal or universal. It also came back to the idea of value in this Darwinist world of the show – those who cannot or will not kill offer little but drain much, putting Eugene in the same boat as Father Gabriel, the only difference previously being Eugene’s ‘cure’. How he fits into the group going forward will be interesting to watch, as will the effect of this revelation on the others who went with him; Rosita, having seen the darker side to Abraham, and also the more familiar faces of Glenn, Maggie and Tara, having deserted the group for nothing.
More importantly, what drives this season now? The Atlanta hospital? Or an as-yet unseen development? There’s nothing particularly wrong with the week-to-week style we’ve seen thus far, but you’d still expect something to keep tying things together going forward.